Economy

Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse

Florida governor declares state of emergency amid fears of reservoir collapse”

The pond at the Piney Point phosphate plant in central Florida could potentially release 340 million gallons (1.3 billion liters) of toxic water within minutes, threatening nearby homes and causing a potential environmental crisis in the area.

The Florida governor said the state has been pumping approximately 33 million gallons per day into Tampa Bay since Thursday to decrease stress on the leaking containment walls to avoid a breach and flood.

Ron DeSantis said Sunday that state officials are hoping to prevent a "catastrophic event" as they pump water out of a reservoir near a decommissioned phosphate plant amid concerns it may collapse.

Manatee County Public Safety Department said that 316 households are within the full evacuation area.

Crews have been releasing water since the pond started leaking this month. "It is slightly acidic, but not at a level that is expected to be a concern".

"We're talking about the possibility of around 600 million gallons leaving the detention pool and flowing across the entire area in a matter of seconds and minutes", he added.

The concerns for the quality of the water being discharged are now "less than the risk of everyone's health and safety" due to the potential for flooding, DeSantis said Sunday.

Early Sunday, officials saw an increase of water leaking out, but Hopes says it seems to have plateaued. The water running out on its own is going to Piney Point creek and into Cockroach Bay, an aquatic preserve in the Tampa Bay north of the facility. "We are not out of the critical area yet".

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron De Santis warns of flood threat Credit Chris O'Meara AP

Hopes says that if the pond collapses, there is a risk it could destabilise the walls of other areas in the plant.

"We are closely monitoring the ongoing situation and are in close communication with Governor DeSantis' office, as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection", she said in an email.

The Florida DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said another pond has higher levels of metals. The water meets "water quality standards for marine waters with the exception of pH, total phosphorus, total nitrogen and total ammonia nitrogen", according to the Florida DEP.

The Center for Biological Diversity national conservation group called for the US Environmental Protection Agency to step in.

ABC News could not immediately reach a representative for HRK Holdings for comment. Instead, "we will be depleting the holding ponds of their water, and then we will be moving forward to a permanent solution into the future", he said.

The leaking pond sits in a stack of phosphogypsum, a waste product from manufacturing fertiliser, and contains "small amounts of naturally occurring radium and uranium".

"We hope the contamination is not as bad as we fear but are preparing for significant damage to Tampa Bay and the communities that rely on this precious resource", Justin Bloom, founder of the Sarasota-based nonprofit organization Suncoast Waterkeeper, said in a statement.

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